Jersey Shore School Board passes proposed budget amidst ongoing deficit discussion

JERSEY SHORE – While still struggling with a districtwide deficit of $1.3 million, the Jersey Shore Area School Board voted 7-2 to approve its proposed final 2018-19 budget that reflects a tax increase during its meeting on Monday.

The proposed budget can be changed up until the final budget is voted on in June.

It reflects a real estate tax for Clinton County as 12.9608 mills and 17.8009 mills for Lycoming County if it is finalized for 2018-19.

The 2017-18 real estate tax is 12.1009 for Clinton County and 17.3736 for Lycoming County, so the increase would be 0.8599 mills for Clinton County and 0.4272 for Lycoming County.

For a home estimated at about $100,000, that increase would mean $85 for Clinton County residents and $42 for Lycoming County residents.

The district has an Act 1 Index of 3.3 percent, and although the district previously applied for exceptions, the proposed 2018-19 budget did not exceed the Act 1 Index.

Voting yes were members Craig Allen, Christopher Fravel, Dr. John Pecchia, Michelle Stemler, Karen Stover, Mary Thomas and Kelley Wasson.

Voting no were members Harry Brungard and Merrill Sweitzer.

“Passage of the proposed final budget does not lock in the real tax increases. Real estate taxes can be changed between proposed final budget and the final budget,” said Ben Enders, business manager.

Because the budget still reflects a districtwide deficit of $1.3 million, the board is considering all options to help balance the budget. Previously, the board considered closing schools, but it voted to keep the schools open. Now other options must be considered, and there are tough choices to be made regarding program cuts and teacher furloughs.

“We’re running out of time here. We need some definite something … To me, it’s curriculum and furloughs unless someone on this board sees something different we can cut to make up this deficit,” Brungard said. “I don’t see any other way out of it.”

During public comment, 14 people got up to speak on behalf of programs, teachers positions being saved and the budget.

“We haven’t won this war. We won the battle of trying to keep our two schools,” said Ron Parks, community member. “Now it’s trying to balance this budget.”

Colin Best, community member, asked for a deeper look at the budget, including a line-by-line overview.

“Lets not cut programs. Programs are the last thing we want to cut. They’re what develop our youth,” he said.

In order to closer examine the budget and discuss options, the board decided to schedule two more work sessions for 7 p.m. Thursday and 7 p.m. Monday. They will be held at the administration office, 175 A and P Drive.

Allen said he wanted administration and those in charge of asking for budgets to be able to discuss options of cutting.

“Whoever has a budget under their purview can be here and stand up at the podium and tell us whether you’ve found anything (to cut) or whether you haven’t,” he said. “We either can afford it or we can’t.”

He said he understands all the programs are valuable, however value is not what is being questioned.

“We just don’t have the money to make it work,” he said.